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Designing for Dementia environments

Age-related changes and impairments can make it more difficult to understand and navigate the built environment. Impairments may include sensory, mobility or cognitive (or sometimes a combination of them all) which can affect people's functioning, behaviour, independence and ultimately, their quality of life.

Forbo have partnered with Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC), an international centre which draws on 25 years of global research and practice, to identify which products in our portfolio can contribute to improving the quality of life for people with dementia.

Flotex flooring and dementia
Dementia flooring product finder

Flooring products and designs

Floor covering is an essential factor in designing a dementia friendly environment as it has an impact not only on the safety and orientation of a space but when used correctly, can help provide confidence, security and independence.

DSDC have rated our flooring products 1a plain and can be used indiscriminately, 1b semi-plain and can be used throughout or 2 patterned use with caution.

Let our product finder help you choose from our DSDC accredited flooring offerSelection

Dementia Friendly Flooring Selection Guidelines

Tonal contrast is critical for materials to be seen against each other.

Both DSDC and BS8300:2009 Recommend a difference of 30 degrees of LRV between critical surfaces such as floors to walls and doors to walls.

Adjoining flooring should be tonally similar to reduce the risk of falls.

Flooring LRVs should be within 10 degrees of each other (less is better).

Transition strips should match the tones of both surfaces with an ideal difference of no more than 3 degrees of LRV step difference.

It is recommended that skirtings contrast with both the wall and the door where possible.

Dementia DSDC accredited product

Colour and colour combinations
Colour, also in designing for dementia is a matter of taste. In our selection therefore we have not made a colour choice as such. Instead we looked closely at the contrast and harmony in lightness of the colours with which designs can be created that provide a good bases for the colours of other interior elements such as walls and furniture. Contrasting floor colours in a building can be used to indicate that certain areas are off-limit, f.e. staff areas, or indicate a clearly different space, f.e. stairs, bathroom, or toilet.

Light refection values
Light reflection values (LRV) are the most important design tools for dementia environments. We have added the LRV of all products in our dementia flooring selection In this way combinations of various colours and products can be made by using identical or contrasting LRV’s for the area that needs to be furnished. As LRV’s are a universal measurement for all materials, also the LRV of wall covering or furniture can be measured against the colours chosen for the floor. In our set-up you can see the light reflection values of all products grouped together which allows you to make a choice within a certain LRV range or decide to go beyond that. In this way the LRV guide of the dementia flooring selection provides a practical tool for designers of dementia environments

Designs
The designs in our collections are coordinated, in such a way that different products can be used next to each other. There are no strong repetitive patterns with ‘trompe d’oeuil’ effects, where people are confused or tempted to try and pick design elements from the floor. Our designs all are matt, avoiding the disturbing reflection that occurs with high gloss surfaces (be careful that a cleaning and maintenance regime also results in matt flooring surfaces). We have also paid attention to select a number of designs that by their nature provide a homely atmosphere. Textile, vinyl as well as linoleum designs are able to generate a recollection of the past and to create an environment that looks like being home whilst being in a dementia environment. In particular the subdued wood designs in our selection are an example of this. Finally choices are made in such a way that when applied correctly, there are no transitions between different surfaces that are difficult to manage at old age.

Our floor covering selection

For the typical applications in dementia environments we have selected the following products:

Marmoleum, natural linoleum floors that is available in a range of tranquil allover designs in a wide range of colours. Marmoleum has a smooth surface which makes maneuvering easy even when walking has become a ‘shuffle’.
See the Marmoleum selection in the product finder

Step, slip resistant vinyl which is available natural overall wood and stone like designs as well as various muted colours. The traditional shiny non slip particles have been replaced matt crystals that do not light up and have become part of the design visual.
See the Step safety flooring selection in the product finder


Eternal, sheet vinyl that is available in mute all over natural designs that mimic homely environments. Seamless application ideal for corridors as well as living areas.
See the Eternal vinyl selection in the product finder

Allura, luxury vinyl tiles create realistic natural floors without the hazard of tripping or seams opening up. Easy to install and decorative. Out of the wide collection of designs we have chosen the most suitable and muted, tone in tone items.
See the Allura selection for dementia in our product finder

Flotex, flocked flooring: this textile floor is created from a densely packed nylon flock surface mounted on a vinyl backing, can be cleaned with water detergent and scrubbers and as such is the most hygienic textile in the market.
See the Flotex selection in the product finder

Eternal and dementia

Committed to the Health of One

Forbo Flooring Systems prides itself in being a leader in sustainable flooring applications. With our wide range of different categories of floor covering we are truly able to deliver floor covering solutions for any environment and application. In our sustainability programme ‘Committed to the health of one’ we emphasise the development of our products in relation to the quality of the indoor environment and the individual using and occupying the space. By focusing on health and safety, health & hygiene and health & wellbeing it is our ambition to make a positive contribution to the indoor environment. Our special dementia selection out of our product offer should help to create better places for special care homes.

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Literature and expertise

The literature on Alzheimer is abundantly available is all languages. Websites and special interest group can point out which specialists or experts to consult when designing for special care, aged care and dementia environments.

A special mention is made of the following centres of expertise:

Dementia Design

Alzheimer Australia

Dementia Australia information

Allura and dementia